Outside the Wire from Netflix is a standard action adventure movie that can just barely listed as science fiction. It is so formulaic, the title keeps getting repeated by characters as if to remind audiences of what they are watching. Lieutenant Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) is a drone pilot who is sent to a war zone in lieu of being court marshalled after disobeying orders. While there, he is paired with a top secret android officer (Anthony Mackie). Their mission? Somehow work together to prevent a nuclear war.
The story is a familiar one. The plot sees a brash young inexperienced soldier partnered with the seemingly always combat ready android. The premise will obviously lead to Harp teaching Leo about what it is to be human. Chances are, he will learn a little about himself along the way. It is a cliched premise that can work very well when done right.
The film switches things up slightly. A tension filled opening shows just how cold and emotionless Harp can be. It is reiterated throughout Outside the Wire, how he focuses on numbers instead of emotions and people. Leo, on the other hand, is compassionate and has a deeper understanding of the violence that surrounds him. In other words, he is more human.
The performances are fine despite not being given much to work with. Many segments just trail off. This is most clear in a scene in which Leo explains why he is the face of the United States Marines. These moments come off as forced. The story in Outside the Wire hits all the familiar beats. It has its mismatched partners comedic moments, the chaotic shoot outs, and the surprisingly bad ass friend. None of it is particularly noteworthy, but fans of action movies should enjoy it.
Where the movie really drops the ball is with the character of Harp. Early on, he makes a decision that should set up a story arc about redemption. Towards the end he even makes a decision so he can “make things better”. It never quite works as Outside the Wire decides to spend its time justifying Harp’s initial decision. It is frustrating instead of redemptive.
Leo fares much better as the android officer who seems to have all the answers as they try to save the world. He is involved in Outside the Wire’s best action scenes and Mackie brings a gruff charm to the character. The only issue is he does not show how awesome of a character he is until the last twenty minutes of the movie. A late tonal shift also does more harm than good to the character.
Everything goes off the rails during the movie’s final act. A series of strange twists and inconsistent decisions by the characters take the audience out of the film. It is never a good thing when a story with a fairly straightforward plot is in danger of confusing its audience. Outside the Wire is a serviceable action movie before limping towards the end.
Outside the Wire premieres on Netflix January 15
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